The Science Behind Conversion Storytelling: Why Stories Work

The Science Behind Conversion Storytelling: Why Stories Work

Imagine you’re a digital marketer, and you have the opportunity to speak directly to your target audience. Let’s say a group of them have gathered around you at a campfire. Maybe they’re even toasting marshmallows.

Anyway, they’ve all agreed to come here and listen to you speak. What would you say?

You want to sell them on your product, but feeding them data points or pushing your value proposition doesn’t feel very engaging. So, you decide to draw them in with a story. 

You spin a narrative in which your protagonist is experiencing similar problems to those your audience experiences—problems your product can solve. You describe the pain points in so much detail that your audience reacts visibly and nods along. Then, you explain how the protagonist triumphantly overcame their problems with your product’s help. You take extra care to describe the main character’s new state in vivid detail. You emphasize how they’re free of the annoying pain points and enjoying so many benefits.

If done well, you probably have a crowd of people who are more willing to engage with your brand than if you had merely presented data. 

But what if you could deliver a vivid story to potential customers at the exact moment they showed interest in your product? You can replicate that experience of a persuasive story in your ad campaigns using a strategy called conversion storytelling. 

Conversion storytelling is the practice of designing highly personalized narratives and experiences that build strong relationships between brands and potential customers. It can drive significant improvements in your revenue growth, spend efficiency, and brand loyalty. 

But what qualities of a story help you form these enduring connections? Let’s dive into the science behind why stories develop trust and empathy and even drive our decision-making. 

Neural coupling, empathy, and trust

Storytelling is effective because it’s a form of communication that forges a unique, emotional connection between the teller and listener.

When you hear a story, the neurons in your brain fire in the same pattern as the speaker’s, creating a mirroring effect known as neural coupling. As listener comprehension and engagement increase, the mirrored behavior grows stronger. This synchronicity between speaker and listener creates empathy. Empathy is the feeling of vicarious emotion—of being in the other person’s shoes. It’s also the feeling of connectedness, which plays a role in building trust.

Think about a time when someone told you a compelling story. More importantly, remember how their tale made you feel. Maybe you got invested in the plot and gasped when an unexpected twist happened. Or, perhaps your friend described their hardships in extensive detail, so you felt sad and might have even cried. Regardless of what happened in the story, you’ve probably experienced that feeling of getting attached and invested. 

This feeling of emotional engagement triggered by a compelling story is a phenomenon known as narrative transport. Once a narrative captures a listener’s attention for long enough, the listener may begin to emotionally connect and empathize with the characters.

The feeling of empathy triggers the release of a feel-good brain chemical called oxytocin, which facilitates trust. Oxytocin and its results create a positive feedback loop. As your brain sends more oxytocin flooding into your system, you experience an enhanced connection with others. And the more empathy you feel toward the storyteller, the more you trust them. 

Emotions drive decision-making

People make decisions based on emotions rather than data. Using only rational thinking can lead to ineffective or poor decision-making.  

Decision-making begins in the amygdala, the part of our brain that acts as the emotional epicenter. It’s where we begin to experience our emotions and process memories. 

We often like to think of our decisions as logical and well-thought-out, but one study showed that researchers could predict thoughts before they were conscious. Before we’re even aware of it, our emotional reactions guide us to make subconscious decisions in the amygdala. We might be choosing to be cautious and avoid risk. Or, we might decide to act spontaneously and pursue pleasure. Either way, we make choices without realizing it. 

Once we arrive at the conscious level, we use logic and rationalization to support our decisions. That leads us to believe we make decisions based on rational reasoning. But really, the subconscious mind already made our choices—long before we applied logic and data. 

When you craft a particularly persuasive narrative for your visitors, you strike an emotional chord. You develop a connection with them. These are the secrets to conversion storytelling.

Beyond making a positive brand impression, you also increase the likelihood of a sale or conversion. By tapping into their emotions, you get the opportunity to convince them at a subconscious level. Driving higher conversions and stronger brand loyalty can impact long-term success for your business.

Storytelling propels brand success

Storytelling affects our brains in a way that builds empathy and causes us to trust the speaker. When we trust, we are more likely to feel compelled to take action. Our emotions also drive the decision-making process, which happens in our subconscious mind. Then, we back up our choices with logic and reasoning once we get to the conscious level. 

Applying conversion storytelling to your post-click ad strategy can benefit your short- and long-term business goals. In the short term, it improves conversion rates and spend efficiency. In the long term, it builds stronger relationships between your brand and your potential customers. 

Even if they aren’t convinced this session, a positive experience can lead a visitor to consider a purchase another time. And customers who continue to have positive experiences may end up as lifelong ambassadors of your brand. 

However, if conversion storytelling is a new strategy for you, it can be challenging to know where to start. If you’d like to see what it could look like for your brand, request a complimentary conversion health analysis here.

Michelle Chang
by Michelle Chang

Michelle Chang is a content writer at Postclick. She is passionate about storytelling, effective messaging, and strengthening alignment between sales and marketing. When she’s not drafting blog posts, she is likely re-watching a Scorsese movie or planning her next meal.

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